A quarter of the average business’ marketing budget is devoted to events, according to Forrester Research.

They also found that in 2020 alone, over three million professional events took place around the world.

It’s clear that companies and marketing departments of all types and in all locations believe in the effectiveness of events.

And they’ll be the first to tell you: An effective event doesn’t just happen.

It takes plenty of planning and prep work to pull off event marketing experiences that provide value to attendees and, in turn, move the needle on the key performance indicators (KPIs) that help define your success.

But if you’re wondering…

How do I choose the right KPIs?

What’s the best way to make sure my events generate value for both my company and my attendees?

And what exactly event marketing means, anyway?

We’ve got the answers.

In this guide, we’ll define what event marketing means; why it matters; and all the event marketing strategies, tactics, tools, and examples you need to host unforgettable events in 2021 and well beyond.

What is event marketing?

Event marketing is the practice of hosting experiences that market a product, service, or business. Marketing events aim to create attendee-company engagements that move the needle when it comes to KPIs such as lead generation, sales acceleration, retention, and more.

What is event marketing?

The business benefits of effective event marketing

Great event marketing experiences provide value in more ways than one.

Attendees get to learn useful information and build lasting connections with each other and businesses reap the benefits of engaging with these attendees at various points across the customer lifecycle. 

Let’s explore some of the top business benefits of impactful event marketing.

Foster better brand affinity

“Affinity” describes a liking or attraction — feelings that you want to foster in consumers when it comes to your brand.

Marketing events help build this affinity by creating a space where consumers can immerse themselves in the world of your brand. In this world, they can explore more ways that your business fills specific needs and desires in their lives. They can get to know the team behind the brand and even connect with other customers like themselves. These relationships are something they’ll always fondly associate with their experience with your brand. That’s affinity.

Building brand affinity through event marketing doesn’t only provide value for the consumer, there’s also value for brands themselves.

Strong brand affinity readily leads to word-of-mouth marketing —  an informal “advertising” method that 92% of consumers trust more than traditional ads.

Generate retention

Not only does brand affinity mean powerful word-of-mouth marketing, but that same goodwill can also mean a high retention rate among attendees who become customers.

Retention is extremely valuable for a number of reasons — retained customers shop more often and spend more, increased customer retention has been directly correlated to increased revenue, it’s much less expensive to retain customers than it is to acquire new ones, and so on. 

Achieve desirable brand interactions

Impressions and clicks are of course well and good in the marketing world. But you know what’s even more desirable for both consumers and marketers alike? The high-value, personal, and memorable engagements that can really only take place between people during a well-planned event.

Gain leads

What happens once you’ve created the valuable interactions described above? Many of the people with whom you’ve engaged will naturally gravitate toward your marketing funnel — with noticeably less effort and expense than usual from your end.

Accelerate sales

Events give attendees a way to “try before you buy” when it comes to your products and/or services. Why does that matter? Because it’s becoming somewhat of an expectation in a world of ecommerce shops that readily allow consumers to take something for a spin before committing to their purchase.

Your event marketing strategy: how to build an unforgettable experience from start to finish

Convinced of the value of event marketing experiences?

We hope so, because the next step is to build out an event marketing strategy for yourself.

Here’s everything you need to know.

Decide on event details: KPIs, timeline, and more

Of course, there has to be a little event management in the course of building an event marketing strategy.

The first management task is to set the business goals for your event.

To know if you’ve achieved those goals — and if you’ve generated the ROI for which you were hoping — you must next name your key performance indicators (KPIs).

Here are some often-used KPIs that can help you measure movement on your goals and the success of your event:

  • Number of registrations
  • Profit (for paid events)
  • Attendee satisfaction and engagement (don’t worry, we’ll recommend a tool soon to help calculate this hard-to-capture data)
  • Attendees who went on to enter your pipeline

KPIs can come in two forms: leading and lagging indicators.

KPIs that are leading indicators measure change. They can help you set parameters that, if reached, mean it’s likely you’ll achieve a certain goal. For an event, a leading indicator that you’ll achieve your profit goal might be that a certain number of people have registered by a certain date before the event.

KPIs that focus on results are called lagging indicators. They measure output after your event happens. Lagging KPIs are easier to measure than leading ones, but they will have less influence on your activities for the event at hand — they’re more useful in sussing out patterns and helping you adjust your plan of attack for next time.

A lagging indicator might be something like product sales during an event. Sales numbers speak to how well your sales team performed and can even reach farther back and reflect on how well the product was developed in the first place.

For more tips on event KPIs and ROI, check out our guide “Virtual Event ROI: How to Track and Measure Your Event’s Success.”

After fleshing out and formalizing your goals, it’s time to build out the to-do list of items that will get you there, define who is responsible for each task, and also assign due dates for these tasks.  

During this process, it should become clear what type of event is best for the outcome you want to achieve. Here are some popular options for event types:

  • Conferences
  • Tradeshows
  • Webinars/seminars
  • Networking events
  • User groups
  • Advisory board meetings
  • Product launches and activations
  • Virtual and hybrid events

As the final step in this phase, you’ll want to decide the theme, name, and description of your event marketing experience.

Start developing your content

With your event plans laid out, you should be able to start the large undertaking of creating and overseeing the creation of all the necessary content.

There are two kinds of content when it comes to event marketing: The content that fuels the events you or your company are hosting and the content that goes into advertising the event itself. If you will have outside speakers, you may even need to double-check the content they create to ensure alignment with your event goals. 

This is when that to-do list and those assignments and dates you determined above will really guide your progress.

Secure outside vendors: speakers, sponsors, and tech

While content development is underway, you’ll also want to start securing the speakers (if applicable) and sponsors that help make the whole thing possible.

In this day and age, it’s only sensible to also adopt the technological tools that will save your team some time, money, and sanity. We’ll recommend plenty of those in the next section.  

Begin promoting the event

At this point you should have everything you need to start sharing the news and generating buzz about your event.

Now is when you’ll set up your website or landing page/microsite, start building a community around your event, and launch all those marketing campaigns you developed a few steps ago.

Event time!

While you should be in a good place for your event to run smoothly, we still suggest clearing your schedule during the time your event marketing experience will take place. This will free you up to handle any small production hiccups, interact with your audience, continue to run marketing campaigns, and otherwise create a valuable and engaging experience that attendees won’t soon forget.

Conduct post-event activities

Last but certainly not least, you’ll want to build and release a few follow-up campaigns.

There are several reasons why your marketing shouldn’t end the day that the event ends.

First, ongoing campaigns can help retain attendees for your next event — which we’ve learned is of great value when it comes to saving money and effort.

Second, post-event questionnaires and other practices are great for gauging attendee satisfaction, which is likely one of the KPIs you’ll be monitoring.

Finally, these attendees can be a powerful resource when it comes to fresh ideas or even improvements for your next event.

event marketing plans

8 Best technological tools for powering your event marketing strategy

It’s no surprise that technology can be massively helpful when it comes to managing all the steps and strategies associated with large and successful events.

As long as you choose the right technology, of course.

So allow us to introduce you to some of the best event marketing tech available.

1. All-in-one event marketing software

First up is a game-changing, all-in-one event marketing platform: Socio.

What makes Socio a no-brainer for in-person, virtual, and hybrid event marketing? How about features that handle everything from registration to live streaming, sponsor management, attendee engagement, post-event metrics, and beyond.

Let’s dive a little deeper into some of these key capabilities.

All-in-one event marketing software

Socio hosts a whole suite of event success features

Socio’s virtual event platform and mobile event app power events from end-to-end.

Starting with pre-event activities, Socio makes it easy to spin up a branded microsite that handles registration and ticketing. Then, during your event, participants can engage with your presentations, with each other, and even with sponsors to ensure they (and you!) are getting the expected value. Post-event, your team can check out Socio’s analytics to prove ROI and build an even more effective event next time around.

A special focus on attendee engagement

Socio includes live polling and Q&A to keep attendees engaged during all of your event sessions. But the engagement features go well beyond just that.

With Socio, you can also set up challenges and games that send traffic to sponsors. In addition, attendees can interact with each other using 1:1 video breakout rooms, integrated chat, a meeting scheduling tool, and a social media-like “wall” where event discussions live.

A special focus on attendee engagement

Metrics make it easy to prove event ROI to stakeholders

As you know, it’s not just about how events feel. They also have to generate demonstrable ROI.

Socio makes that possible with a built-in feature dedicated to providing metrics on attendee networking, sponsor interactions, feature engagements, and more. With these analytics, you can show progress on KPIs — and even pinpoint where improvements can be made for next time.

Metrics make it easy to prove event ROI to stakeholders

Socio is trusted all over the world

Some of our awesome clients include MAD//Fest, USDA, Women in Product, Greenhouse, National Speakers Association, Stanford, and more.

That’s because Socio is for everyone: Associations, corporations, universities, event planners — and you.

Want to see how easy it can be to build and host an impressive event?

Sign up for a free demo and let Socio’s Event Experts do the rest.

However, if you’re hosting a much more intimate event or you simply prefer to piece together all the different technology required to pull off an event marketing experience — the next several sections should help you out.

2. Event planning programs

For all the moving parts that go into planning an event marketing experience, we recommend checking out well-known project management programs. These can range from simple (like Trello) to more complex (like Asana).

3. Registration tools

There’s a lot that goes into event registration, ticketing, payment collection, etc. Tools like Regfox, Regpack, and of course Eventbrite can help here.

4. Webinar software

Webex Events by Cisco is a powerful webinar-hosting platform that serves events of every size with plenty of engaging features.

5. Website hosting

Spinning up a microsite to promote your event? Try easy-to-use website hosting software from Wix or WordPress

6. Streaming platform

Now that streaming has taken off, there are several options if you want to livestream event marketing sessions. You can go with a social media platform (like Facebook Live or YouTube Live) or a more purpose-built tool like Restream.

7. Attendee engagement offerings

Slido, an audience interaction platform that’s also part of the Webex family along with Socio, is a unique integration for adding things like quizzes, live polls, Q&A panels, and more to your event marketing experiences.

8. Marketing tools

Of course, you can’t carry out successful event marketing without the marketing element! Try tools that were tailor-made for managing marketing campaigns: Mailchimp, HubSpot, etc.

Need more ideas for event marketing tools? Don’t miss “Event Management Tools: 21 Essential Software Tools for Modern Events.”

Unique tactics for creating effective event marketing experiences

From promoting your event to the actual experience itself, here are a few special touches that you can add to your marketing events to make sure they cut through the noise.

Employ personalization along the attendee journey

Nearly three-quarters of people who host events say that personalization is a priority when it comes to event marketing.

In addition, almost 90% of businesses are actively investing in personalization

Why is that?

Because personalization works. In fact, it’s been shown to steal customers away from competitors, increase conversion rates, grow customer loyalty, and more.

So what you should be asking yourself is what you can do to implement personalized touches throughout an event attendee’s experience.

For some quick wins, you can make sure to personalize the advertising messaging you serve to each potential lead (think emails, PPC ads, etc.), send them a personalized agenda once they’ve registered for your event, and deliver personalized notifications via your event marketing platform during the course of your event (learn how Socio can help you do just that here). 

event planners call personalization a priority during their events

Omnichannel marketing: from social media to email and far beyond

Successful events don’t happen without attendees.

How do attendees find their way to your events?

Through marketing.

More specifically — omnichannel marketing.

Omnichannel marketing delivers seamless, personalized, and on-brand experiences for each lead as they hop from channel to channel. It’s paramount you prioritize this kind of marketing in today’s world of constant connectivity.

Some methods and channels you should consider as you pursue omnichannel marketing include social media, chat bots, landing pages/microsites, organic search, paid search, email, guest posting, and so on.

Set up communication channels to build community

Channels that make attendees feel like part of a community — before, during, and even after events — can add an extra layer of engagement and make your event feel especially unique and memorable.

Socio’s community platform is great for this, and you can also create a well-moderated and close-knit community of attendees using a tool like Slack, Discord, etc.

Initiate co-creation for an especially custom event

In the context of event marketing, co-creation is the process of collaborating with event attendees to generate content in which both parties are interested in talking about.

Not only does following a process like this show attendees how much you trust and respect them, it pretty much guarantees a higher level of engagement from people who are truly interested in your sessions — and that means ROI for you and your sponsors.

Try gamification for maximum engagement

Gamification applies game mechanisms to non-game situations, and it’s been shown to be effective in many environments.

 In the world of event marketing, gamification can be manifested in several ways: Scavenger hunts that take attendees to different parts of the event building or app, social-based challenges, leaderboards, easter eggs, drawings, and so on.

For more ideas on how to engage event attendees, don’t miss our guest post “Virtual Events: 7 Ideas to Build Community and Drive Engagement.”

Examples: see great event marketing strategy in action

Ready to see what a skillful event marketing strategy, well-chosen tools, and some creative tactics can do?

Then keep reading.

WIP delivers on attendee demand to “connect individually to peers and mentors”

The Women In Product (WIP) Conference was already selling out  2,000+ tickets year after year. Attendance wasn’t a challenge. What was a challenge? Providing the one-to-one engagement that attendees craved.

WIP had used event apps in the past. However, none of them were able to foster the kind of connections that provided ongoing value for attendees. The kind of connections attendees consistently asked for when leaving event feedback.

Something had to be done. So, event organizers set out to find an event platform that delivered on all their basic needs and also created a hub where attendees, speakers, and even sponsors could interact.

That’s when they found Socio.

With Socio, the 2019 WIP Conference came complete with personalized push notifications, real-time engagement features, and the crown jewel — in-app networking.

As a result, more than 2,000 connections were made among the 1,704 users who downloaded Socio for the event.

“For us, creating interpersonal connections is a primary driver,” said Arianna Black, Event Project Manager at WIP. “The fantastic number of mutual connections made speaks most highly to us.”

Apple’s WWDC event boasted record attendance after digital pivot

Apple’s pivot to an all-digital Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) could have been a detriment to the brand.

However, the virtual event was actually a massive success because so many participants from all over the world were able to attend for the first time.

In fact, the event raked in 22 million viewers and hosted 4,500 one-on-one “labs” or breakout sessions. This is quite an increase from the number who were able to attend the in-person, California-based events in the past.

CEO Tim Cook said the event received positive feedback and attendees even suggested it retain some of its virtual elements in the future.

Last but not least: Webex + Socio employ a beautiful microsite to market WebexOne

And finally, the moment you’ve been waiting for: An example of how we at Socio take some of our own advice when it comes to event marketing.

Our microsite — where you can of course register for our free event — has all the details potential attendees need to learn about the virtual event (WebexOne), its hosts (Webex and Socio — a member of the Webex Events portfolio), and what they can expect (guest speakers, learning sessions, and networking opportunities).

This microsite gives us somewhere to drive traffic via our marketing efforts, a space where we can share updates about the event, and even serves as a portal to collect attendee information so we can make each in-event and post-event experience as personal as possible.

Visit the WebexOne 2021 website to see what can be done when it comes to creating beautiful buzz around your event marketing experiences (and feel free to sign up to attend while you’re there — WebexOne is free to all!).

webex one 2021

How will you future-proof your event marketing strategy?

Without a solid event marketing strategy — and the right tools and tactics to make it unique — you run the risk of expensive corporate events that, at best, simply fade into the ether or, at worst, fail to meet KPIs and generate ROI.

The future of business lies in flexible, creative events that deliver personalized and highly engaging experiences. If you need a little support delivering on this demand, Socio is the only end-to-end event marketing platform for you. Lock in your event success now and in the future by scheduling a free demo with our team of dedicated Event Experts

Olivia VanCuren
Olivia VanCuren

Content Marketing Specialist @ Socio. Words enthusiast. Passionate about events that foster meaningful connections.